How to build a neighborhood

If you’ve been wondering why BoConcept and West Elm (both high-end furniture stores) ended up side by side on Front Street in DUMBO — it was done on purpose.

Seems that the good people at Two Trees Management — which controls most of the real estate down here — have decided to turn DUMBO into a sort of furniture district, akin to Gaphattan’s lighting or fashion districts.

“In order for most of the retail stores here to make money, they have to attract people from other neighborhoods,” said Louise Ehrmann, who is co-in charge of leasing for Two Trees.

“Our thought was if you’re looking for furniture and home furnishings, come to DUMBO,” she said. “Between all the different styles and price points, everyone’s sure to find something that fits his or her taste and budget.”

In other words, you buy a couch here, a lamp there, and a table from that other guy, but you do it all in the same area.

It makes sense, I suppose. But why furniture? It’s not like people go on furniture-buying excursions every weekend. Right?


DUMBO is probably the perfect neighborhood to turn into a furniture/interior design center. It’s close to Gaphattan — because everyone knows how much Gaphattanites hate to travel to the (shudder) “outer” boroughs. There’s an incredible amount of space left over from when this neighborhood was a manufacturing haven. And furniture makers are really just another subset of the artsy types who call DUMBO home.

“DUMBO being a place of design encouraged our idea,” said Ehrmann. “It’s evolving organically. We’re just helping it move along.” Besides which, condo towers are going up like Amish barns around here. And “fabulous apartments need fabulous furniture,” says Ehrmann.

But here’s the thing — in the short run, all this fabulousness may be beneficial for the furniture makers and interior designers, but in the long run, it may mean that all but high end places like BoConcept and West Elm will leave the area.

“It’s a myth that DUMBO is a hotbed of furniture makers,” said Jonah Zuckerman, owner of City Joinery furniture studio and workshop. “There used to be a lot more of us. Now a lot of furniture makers are moving out to Red Hook.”

Why the move? All the fabulous condos going up in the area are pushing property values up. Making a neighborhood trendy, it turns out, also makes it expensive. And while Red Hook rents are still cheap compared to DUMBO, they are not likely to remain so for long.

So while Zuckerman is happy that he’ll get more clients from all the condo buyers moving to DUMBO, he also wonders where he’ll be when his lease runs out five years from now. While he’s contemplating a move out to Red Hook or Sunset Park where the rents are still cheaper, he might have to do something more drastic.

“I could open a showroom in Manhattan,” he said. Gasp!

Thankfully, he still has some time before making a decision.

“Two Trees wants to turn this place into a retail destination, and I’m encouraging that,” he said. “But it’s going to take time.”

After all, all those fabulous condos have to get built first.

The Kitchen Sink

Do you have a problem that 311 can’t solve? Start a blog. A resident of Montague Street calling himself Sigmund is so annoyed with a loud, high-pitched alarm that’s been going off in the nabe lately (and the inability of 311 to stop it) that he started a blog called Something Loud and Annoying This Way Comes. Gotta love the Web. …

At the BoConcept grand opening party on March 16, with all the kids playing on the furniture, it seemed more like an opportunity for parents to test out the durability of the chairs rather than a cocktail hour. …

A hearing to discuss the latest report on the Duffield Street houses has been postponed to April 11. The original date, March 20, would not have allowed people to prepare their testimony. …

The restaurant formerly known as Afficionada has a new name and a new theme — it is now the Busy Chef bakery, and it will open in April. …

The Brooklyn Heights Playground Committee is holding its annual Easter Egg Hunt on April 7 at the Pierrepont Playground. See www.bhplaygrounds.org for more information or to make a donation. They don’t take eggs, though, only money.

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